What an absolute pleasure it is to review Gotham, which I truly and sincerely believe is the next great network drama. May it run for six seasons!
Gotham is not That Batman Show, it is an origin story set approximately a decade before Batman begins (pun intended, this is not the Christopher Nolan universe). Consequently, the show opens with the murder of 11 year old Bruce Wayne’s parents and moves forward from there. Wayne (David Mazouz) is not the main character, although it is a brilliant touch that the Bruce Wayne we get to see on this show is a really screwed up kid who does messed up shit like putting his hand in a candle flame and leaving it there, much to the dismay of Alfred Pennyworth (Sean Pertwee) who’s been left to raise him.
The primary characters of Gotham, however, are idealistic young detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his much more cynical street-dirty partner Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). There are also a plethora of recognizable figures who don’t yet go by their more ominous monikers like The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor) or The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith, giving a wonderfully twisted performance as an obsessive compulsive police forensic scientist who has yet to turn to a life of crime). It’s a neat twist to Gotham, moreover, that so many of the infamous characters of the future are still children here, including not a girl but not yet Catwoman Selina Kyle (Carmen Bicondova) and still only mildly toxic Ivy (Clare Foley). That’s commitment to an origin story.
Of course, if Gotham was just a Batman training ground it would hardly be anything special, but the show is so much more than that. Gotham successfully blends comic book fantasy, police procedural and epic character drama to provide the most entertaining look at a surreal underworld since Pulp Fiction. It is, further, a strength of the show that it works so hard not to be Batman Origins and instead tries to tell an original story that only coincidentally has a sequel we are familiar with. Hence the inclusion of significant non-Batman characters like middle management mobster Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) and other much less well known elements from the Batman universe.
For my part, I have a real Batman hangover and have zero interest in seeing another film or television show that features the caped crusader. I do, however, have an enthusiastic admiration for what has been a tremendous launch for this show. I just hope it can continue to maintain its uniqueness and separation from its inspiration source as the storyline inches us closer to the point when Bruce Wayne decides he needs a new pair of tights.
LOST IN A CROWDED field of comic book fantasy shows is season 2 of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the superhero show that features no superheroes, has a budget that will keep it on the network’s cancellation watch list pretty much no matter what, and is wildly less entertaining than the shows it’s in competition with, despite a tortured plotline as convoluted as its too-long name.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up the story in season 2 with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) being elevated to Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is now considered an outlaw organization. The show makes the classic mistake I see a lot of shows make by breaking up its team and scattering its characters all over the place, thus destroying any chemistry its leads may have had (not to worry, in this case that wasn’t very much) and disrupting any continuity or momentum it may have built from the preceding season (again, not so much). The fact is, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. only marginally realized its potential in season 1, was already a much less entertaining show than The CW’s underdog Arrow, and is now looking at a field that includes Arrow spin off The Flash and the truly outstanding Gotham (see above). Seriously? I just don’t have the time for this show anymore.
It may not only be a changing landscape that’s done S.H.I.E.L.D. in, however. As pointed out, having a show heavy on gunfire and explosions tends to be expensive, and scripted drama has trouble competing for network dollars already when execs know they can put on the worst reality TV show in the history of television and not lose money because they’re so cheap to make. How long will ABC want to spend big for a mediocre action show? I don’t know. How long do you want to watch a comic book fantasy with more bureaucracy than fantasy?
WHEN I FIRST heard about the premise of Scorpion, I couldn’t help but think of the team of genetically enhanced misfits who ran into Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Frankly, they should have given a show to the misfits.
Scorpion is apparently based on a true story, although I suspect the true story is a lot better than this cliched effort about a team of super-geniuses commandeered by a government officer (Robert Patrick) to be problem solvers. Their leader (Elyes Gabel) also decides that the team needs diner waitress Katharine McPhee to join them to “relate to the world” and because he recognizes that her son is a super genius when he sees him playing with diner condiments. How convenient.
Scorpion’s biggest downfall, however, is that there is very little original to relate to here. At its best, this is a basic procedural (no wonder CBS liked it) like 1000 others already on TV. While the true story version may indeed be unique, the TV version is hackneyed. The team of characters each have a specialty which of course defines everything about the character. Scorpion’s bridge to the audience is McPhee, but the singer-turned-actress struggled playing a singer-turned-actress on Smash, and the writing isn’t helping either.
For a show about smart people, Scorpion feels stupid when you watch it, with predictable storylines and wooden dialogue. Just because something is true, doesn’t necessarily make it interesting.
This week’s Boardwalk Empire featured a remarkable reunion scene between Nucky and Margaret (Steve Buscemi and Kelly MacDonald), in which they play the hardest kind of scene – two people who used to love each other. Buscemi and MacDonald pulled it off brilliantly, and it won’t surprise me if they both get nominated for Emmys off this episode.
Educational TV. Things we learned from watching TV this week: 1) “Urban tie cap” is white people for doo-rag (@Midnight); 2) If you scrape off the top of an everything bagel, it becomes a nothing bagel (The Mindy Project); 3) The fistbump is the universal handshake of douchebags (Manhattan Love Story).
Resurrection nearly didn’t make it to a season 2 on ABC. I’m guessing it doesn’t make it past winter subs, as this adaptation has gone downright silly.
Speaking of downright silly (but in a good way), I suspect Key & Peele’s “Little Homie” sketch will be going viral. Another instant comedy classic.
Reality Check: Note to future contestants on The Voice: please stop announcing that picking a coach is the “hardest decision you’ve ever had to make in your life.” Actually, I would think the elation of getting picked to advance on The Voice would make the decision relatively easy. I bet if they put a big spinner on stage and you just had to spin it, you’d be OK with that if it meant you got to advance no matter what coach you got. On a side note, somehow this music competition show has managed to remain fresh and interesting and just plain watchable despite the over saturation of singing competition shows.
I love when an actor’s performance elevates their character past what it was intended to be. An obvious example is Emily Bett Rickards on Arrow who instantly became a fan favorite. A much more onerous route, however, was taken by Scandal’s Bellamy Young, who was originally only slated for a handful of episodes and was originally written as a titular villain, scheming, cynical and ambitious. Young, however, turned Mellie Grant into an inspiring character – a survivor who made difficult choices and then lived with the consequences. She continues to be one of my favorites on the show so the more Mellie the better I say.
The season premiere of Homeland airs on Showtime on October 5.
The season finale of The Strain airs on FX on October 5.
Mulaney debuts on Fox on October 5.
The series premiere of The Flash airs on October 7 on The CW.
Town of the Living Dead debuts on Syfy on October 7.
American Horror Story: Freakshow premieres on October 8 on FX.
Arrow returns to The CW on October 8.
Cristela debuts on ABC on October 10.
TV’s a big place and I haven’t been to all of it yet. Got a favorite show you’d like me to comment on? Post a comment below, contact me on twitter @RobLazlo. or shoot me an email: [email protected]. I welcome your input!Featured Image Source Image Source 1 Image Source 2 Image Source 3